Sunday, 27 November 2011

The ways shaytaan enters the Heart.

From Book 21 of Imaam Al-Ghazzali’s Ihya Ulum Al-din

v  Know, that the heart is like a fortress. Shaytaan is an enemy who wishes to enter the fortress and take possession of it.

v  The fortress cannot be kept safe from the enemy except by guarding its doors and entrances.

v  The doors in which shaytaan enters, are the traits of a person

v  He whom does not know his doors cannot guard them.

There are great doors and then there are narrow doors. These great doors are like the large street gates. Once you close the large street gates, it will become easier to close the narrow ones.

One of the great gates is Anger
-          When one gets angry, this anger can overtake a person, the same way one gets intoxicated by alcohol; they lose control.
One must always be conscious of keeping the gates closed. If the army of the intellect grow weak (you are not conscious of it), then the army of shaytaan will take the opportunity to attack.
When one becomes angry, shaytaan will play with that person as a boy plays with a ball (tossing it and kicking it here and there and making it do what he wants).

Of the great doors, includes: Anger, Desire, Greed, Hastiness – man is hasty by nature (Hastiness of anger is a characteristic of Man that is most helpful to shaytaan), love of adornment of furnishing and house, and the greatest door is Envy.
He whom does not know his doors cannot guard them.
So know them, and guard them.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Special Properties of the Heart of Man cont..

To continue from the last post:

Imaam Al-Ghazzali says that desire, anger, and external/internal senses exists in the youth potentially – (like a seed planted but needs to grow), but in order to attain them (use them fruitfully) the youth must first pass through two stages:

1)      His heart must comprehend the knowledge and its first principles (the knowledge of possibility and impossibility, rationale judgement, for example it is impossible for Zayd to be in two places at one time..)

2)      He shall gain that knowledge which is acquired by experience and thought (the experiences we have, and reflecting upon these experiences – there is no substitute for experience)
A similtude given:
The status of point 1) in relation to knowledge, is like that of a writer whos knowledge of writing only extends as far as knowing the use of a pen which is dipped into the inkwell which is then used to write letters. But they do not know how to join the letters together to make meaningful words and sentences. – such a person is well on their way to writing, but has not yet achieved it.
(In comparison – is like people who have knowledge of Fiqh, who have memorised the quran, who mastered tajweed, but their knowledge does not extend as far as how to implement it into their life in a meaningful way).
And thus if the youth has passed both point 1) and point 2) is like that of a person who knows how to write – able to form words and sentences meaningfully – a writer. (And in comparison – the person who has much knowledge in Fiqh, Quran, Sunnah, is able to implement it meaningfully and able to make perfectly just decisions based on his knowledge in accordance to his experiences and reflection and maturity which has developed over time).

The potential lies within every youth, like a seed planted but needs to grow
(Picture is of the Blessed Tree in Jordan)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Special Properties of the Heart of Man

Taken from book 21 of Imaam Al-Ghazzali’s Ihya Ulum Al-Din
Title: An Exposition on the Special Properties on the Heart of Man.

Khaasiyah – an attribute which is inseparable to something, which makes it unique and thus has a special property.
There are things in the world where Allah has given them special properties, e.g. there are certain herbs in the world which are used for specific medicinal purposes, animals have their own unique attributes, and so what makes Man so special? It is his Heart.
The special properties of the heart are based on:
-          Knowledge (Ilm)
-          Will (Iraadah)
From Knowledge (Ilm) meaning: special knowledge, the ability to reflect on the past and future (animals cannot reflect on things) – thus is a special attribute gifted to Man related to the Heart.
From Will (Iraadah) meaning: the ability to act on the intellect, to reach a certain desire/benefit.
Knowledge and Will are related because, if someone wants to do something beneficial (i.e. take medicine), but can only do it through a way that is undesirable (through injection), if they are intelligent they will still go ahead with it in order to reach that which benefits them, therefore the Will goes against the desire based on their knowledge. In comparison, an animal will not go against the desire, it Wills what it desires, if its hungry it eats.
Imaam Al-Ghazzali states that the heart of man has the special properties of Knowledge  and Will which separate it:
-          From other animals (as described above)
-          From the youth in his natural disposition, for this comes to him only with maturity
Thus the difference between the Heart of Man and animals, and the heart of the mature man and the youth.
So its interesting to note that one may adopt the special qualities of the heart – but infact it will be of no real use to them until they know how to use it, and they will know how to use it only with maturity and maturity only comes with time and life experience. Hence why we have young people of today whom have the Will to gain and seek out knowledge, however are still not righteous people, or are unable to make right decisions as they lack maturity  and experience which can only come through time.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

An example by Imaam Al-Ghazzali

An example of the inner reality of the heart that Imaam Al-Ghazzali gives:
The Body is like a city and the perceptive power - the Mind (Akl) is a King that rules over the city. The perceptive power of the senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing) both external and internal are its armies and helpers.  The members (limbs) are like the people of the city, the soul which commands to evil – appetence and anger (nafs) is like the enemy who opposes the Kingdom and strives to destroy his people. His body thus becomes a frontier outpost, and his soul, is a place in which guards are placed. So if he strives against the enemy (nafs) and conquours him, then his deeds will be praised on the day that he returns to the presence of Allah (swt). But if he loses the control of the frontier and neglects his people, then his deeds will be blamed and vengeance will be taken against him when he meets Allah.
And so on the outside of the city, we have the evil notions (shaytaan) that try to penetrate the heart – the Castle, to take over the city, through different doors/gates. And it is the enemy within (your nafs) which tells the shaytan which doors are open, because your nafs knows you from the inside, it knows your weaknesses. And thus, we need the Akl – the intellect to understand and to keep closing the doors, to try to win the war.
Your Heart is where the battle takes place within the city. There are lesser battles and there are greater battles, the greater battle being that of the nafs – the battle against yourself.

Allow your Intellect (the King) to close the gate to the Heart (the Castle) in order to win the Battle of the Self (the Nafs)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Marvels of the Heart: Chapter 2

Chapter 2: An exposition on the armies of the heart (Bayaan Junuud Al-Qalb)
Imam Al-Ghazzali says:
Allah says: no one knows the armies of thy Lord save himself. For in the hearts and spirits of other worlds, Allah has armies levied (Junuud Mujannadah).

Junuud Rabika – the armies of your Lord, which are the Angels (malaika)

Junuud Al-Qalb – the armies of the heart:

The heart has two armies – the armies seen with the eye (outwardly) and the armies seen with the inner sight (inwardly)

 The heart is as a King. And the armies are as servants and helpers.   The armies visible to the eye, include, the hand/foot/leg/ear/eye/tongue etc. These were created with a disposition to obey the heart, and not to rebel against it.

When the heart commands the limbs, they obey, as do the angels when Allah commands them.
Thus note: if the heart is pure, then it will command the limbs to do pure actions.

The heart needs these armies due to its need for a vehicle to make the journey to Allah. Thus, the body is the vehicle of the Heart. The heart needs this vehicle in order to:

-          Procure food -  by the internal army (apetite) and the external army (hand/mouth)

-          To drive off things that will destroy it – internal army (anger), and external (hand/foot). – thus anger is not always a bad thing in terms of protecting yourself and your family.

These things are related to preservation of the body.
And so the heart also needs this vehicle to gain knowledge, again with internal and external aspects.

We have learnt the two types of armies of the heart (internal/external) and why they are needed by the heart. The next post will be about how the heart uses its armies to gain this provision for the journey, inshallah.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Marvels of the Heart: Chapter 1

Title: An exposition on the meaning of the Soul, Spirit, Heart and Intellect and what is intended by these names.

·         Nafs – Soul

·         Ruh – Spirit

·         Qalb – Heart

·         Akl – Intellect/mind

All of the words listed above have two meanings; a higher and a lower meaning.1 There is something outwardly related and something inwardly related to them. In their Higher meaning they all have a similar aspect, they coincide with one another.

The Qalb (Heart):

Lower meaning: The fleshy organ on the left side of the chest

Higher meaning: The Spiritual Centre

The Ruh (Spirit):

Lower meaning: the “energy” that circulates the blood around the body

Higher meaning: this coincides with the higher meaning of the heart – it is a “mystery” beyond the comprehension of Man.

The Nafs (Soul):

Lower meaning: this is something that is driven by the physical forces such as appetite, aggression, pleasure seeking, pain avoidance

Higher aspect: No different to the Higher aspect of the Heart and the Spirit where they coincide, it is termed The Serene Soul.

The Akl (Intellect)

Lower meaning: the faculty that processes the information from the sensory apparatus, organises this information, selects the relevant parts and then precedes

Higher meaning: “Inspired intellect” the recipient of knowledge from higher worlds

(so in the lower form, it relates to knowledge itself and in the higher form it relates to the Knower himself)2

Imaam Al-Ghazzali says:  They all have meanings specific to them, but then they also all share a meaning inwardly.2
(Note: that all the lower meanings are as they are in the Dunya, and all the higher meanings are something on a spiritual level, something in the next world, something that is much of a mystery as we cannot comprehend it as such but still we must strive towards it.)

To be continued...The next chapter is really interesting, it explains the role of each Nafs, Ruh, Qalb and Akl within the “Kingdom” the body.

1 “Man and the Universe” a book written by Dr Mustafa Badawi – taken from Imaam Al-Ghazzali’s Marvels of the heart.

2 The Religious Psychology of Al-Ghazzali: A translation of his book of the Ihya on the Explanation of the Wonders of the Heart with introduction and notes. Skellie, Walter James (1899), 77-32, 719

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Marvels of the Heart: Introduction

The title: Marvels of the Heart

 عجائب القلب      
There are many wonders of the physical heart – its function in the body, scientifically there are still many mysteries that surround the heart, and thus just as there are wonders of the physical heart, that is also so for the inward spiritual heart

Other names for the heart that is found in the Quran and Imaam Al-Ghazzali uses: Fu’aad, Sarira (sara’ir plural)
I wanted to include the arabic text, alas my rubbish IT skills wont allow it. it sounds rather profound in English, but more so in Arabic, thus, I would encourage it to be read or listened to in Arabic.
Translation (by Walter James Skellie) – hopefully I won’t get killed for copywrite, I just had to include exactly what the sheikh said from this translation, it’s just absolutely beyond beautiful, and I couldn’t add anything of my own without ruining its essence.  (Anything written in brackets is just my notes to help me understand it better).

“Praise be to Allah whos majesty does perplex the hearts and thoughts of those who seek in vain to comprehend it; whose shining light is such as to bewilder the eye and sight; the one who beholds the secrets of the heart, the knower of the hidden aspects of our heart; he who has no helper in the ruling of his kingdom; the one who oscillates the heart; the forgiver of sins, the veiler of faults and the one who relieves from anxieties. And peace and blessings be on the master of all messengers; the uniter of the religion and the one who cuts off the people of disobedience, and on his family.”1

And so he begins  أما  بعد    to percede:

“the honour and excellence of man in which he surpasses all other creation/animals in his ability and spiritual preparedness to know Allah – thus the reason why we were created.” 1
(so he says that what makes us humans different to all other creation, is that Allah gave us the ability to know Allah, and this is an honour for mankind, hence why the (mala’ika) angels were ordered to bow down to Adam, the Angels simply obey Allah, as angels were not created with free-will or choice (the same as any other creation, tree/animal), however Mankind was created with free-will, they have the ability to disobey Allah if they choose to, so the people that choose to obey Allah and choose to seek out knowledge of Allah, this makes them superior to all creation for this reason only, that man was given the ability as well as the choice to become spiritually prepared.)
“this knowledge of Allah in this world is mans beauty and perfection and glory and in the next world, it is his provision and store. “1
(to know Allah in this world; the more you know Allah, the more perfect you become,  and the more perfect you become in this world, the more provision there will be for you in the next world – not sure if I understood this correctly but it made sense to me this way.)

“He only prepares himself to know his Lord by way of his heart, not with any of his limbs, the heart! It is the Heart that knows Allah, it is the heart that draws near to Allah, it is the heart that works for Allah, it is the heart that strives towards Allah, it is at the level of the heart where unveilings take place in Allahs presence.  All of the Limbs are subjects, servants and instruments of the heart. For it is the Heart which is accepted by Allah”2
(the key to drawing near to Allah, is doing so with your heart. When the heart is corrupted, then so too are the limbs and when your heart is on the right path, then the limbs will be also. The heart is like the King and the limbs are merely its subjects and servants in the kingdom. The limbs are instruments, they can be used to help the heart get closer to Allah. i.e. doing dikhr – involves the tongue, the lips, the hands/fingers  tasbeeh,  etc)

“…Since every vessel drips that which it contains” 2
e.g. milk in a glass, when spilled will pour out milk, thus, whatever the heart is filled with, if the heart is filled with goodness, it will diffuse goodness out onto the limbs outwardly, and if it is filled with impure things, then this will be shown externally on the limbs. 3

The heart is that in which if a man knows it, he knows himself, and if he knows himself, he knows his Lord. It is that in which if a man knows it not, he knows not himself and thus he knows not his Lord.” 2
To know your weakness and your personality, your bad qualities, is all related to knowing ones Lord, if you know what is disliked by your Lord then you will know what weak qualities you hold.3
(thus knowing oneself is the key to knowing ones Lord)

“He who knows not his own heart is still ignorant of everything else.”4
So if you are ignorant of knowing your heart, then don’t expect to know anything else with this ignorance. By not focusing on the heart and its characteristics means not being able to control outwardly the limbs. The wrong actions that people commit, is all due to this internal blindness. The ignorance of not knowing the importance of the heart and its connection to the Ruh and to Allah, all provides ignorance of ones own actions. 3

1 The Religious Psychology of Al-Ghazzali: A translation of his book of the Ihya on the Explanation of the Wonders of the Heart with introduction and notes. Skellie, Walter James (1899), 77-32, 719 (page 1)
2 Same ref as 1 (page 2)
3 Comments of Sheikh Yahya Rhodus
4 Same ref as 1 (page 3)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Marvels of the Heart

I have just recently started studying the following book by Imaam Al-Ghazzali
From Book 21 of Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya Uloom Al-din)
Book 21: Book of an explanation of the Marvelsof the Heart
There is no way I could possible capture all the aspects of this book, and noway can I say I can fully comprehend it. Although every word seems to be truly breath taking, I endevour to try to portray the parts that have completely blown me away. With the help of the right books and English translations and the Sheikh whom has proper knowledge to explain it, And with Allahs help, I do only that which is within my ability.
 “The heart is called the heart due its constant Oscillation, it moves from state to state in every moment.”

If we think about it, even biologically in the physical sense, the heart is constantly  moving from one state to another, where in one beat of the heart it contains oxygenated blood and in the next beat it contains deoxygenated blood, its oscillation is its blood circulation in the body, and so the heart also constantly oscilates spiritually,  in imaan – one moment the heart is filled with imaan, and the next moment there is no imaan and one finds themselves committing sin, and then one repents and the imaan is raised again,
Thus the importance of the the science of tassawuf, to know the fiqh of the heart and the nature of the heart, in order to know how to deal with each state. Usually when studying Fiqh, we are taught the right way of doing things externally, i.e. making wudu, performing prayers, however when the internal fiqh is missing, the fiqh of the heart, it makes the external actions quite pointless. One needs to know the nature of one’s heart in order to respond appropriately in situations and capture the true aspect of being a Muslim, this is part of the journey of every traveler on the spiritual path to become closer to Allah.
My following posts will be what I have written up so far, of my very basic understanding of this book, so stay tuned - its extremely interesting and enlightening, and let me know your thoughts, I would encourage everyone to take this course.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

When the nafs takes over...

It doesn’t matter how well you think you know yourself, Allah will surely send someone down to you to try your patients, to make you realise, infact, you still have much to learn about yourself, and about other people in the world.

What we must do is to try and be as prepared as possible for when our patience is put on trial, try to train your response, because most of the time, it will catch us off-guard. If you let your guard down, you could be a victim of letting your nafs get the better of you.

Generally when a person is giving another person hardship/discomfort/unease it is generally because they have some insecurity and that they are infact quite confused about who or what they are. But, we need to be sure that, before we are a father, a mother, a student or a teacher, a husband or a wife, an employer or an employee, WE are first and foremost MUSLIM. And, so long as we are Muslim first, in everything that we do, we will be successful in the eyes of Allah.

There are people out there who are ugly, who have morals with no manners, or they have manners with no morals. Either way it makes them look ugly on the outside, however, inside every person, there is a perfect and pure soul which laments as the nafs is destroying it.

The nafs, this is the ego, it is gluttony, it’s the part of you that wants to scream at the other person, it’s the part of you that wants to smack them in the head for nicking your favourite pencil, it’s the part of you that wants to show others your bigger and better and you have power – infact, these people have no power over their nafs, they have allowed their nafs to take over and torture the soul.

I believe that every person that walks into your life, will teach you something new about yourself. Whether it be that your not as patient as you thought you was, or your not as tactfull as you thought you was, or that you don’t actually have a way with words. There is no weakness in realising your weaknesses, so long as you realise it. Remember that however anyone treats you, you are not anyones slave except Allahs slave and you serve no one but THE one, your Lord.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Adab Al-Ayn

When one thinks of fulfilling the rights of ones body, what normally comes to ones mind? For example let us take the rights of the eyes. What are the rights of ones eyes over ones soul? The obvious thought would be to refrain ones eyes away from that which is unlawful for one to look at. Think further, and wonder that perhaps one of the most important rights of the eyes is to ensure that one is upholding the adab (manners) of the eyes?

Now one may be thinking, so what is the adab of the eyes?

First of all let us ponder on the actual Arabic word Adab and although there is probably no words in English that can best describe Arabic words, due to being the most eloquent and high ranking of all languages, the simplest meaning would be “the right way of doing something” the root of this word can be related to many things, such that it relates to courtesy, having great knowledge – because one who has knowledge tends to adopt adab, it can relate to nourishment of the body and through morphology can thus relate also to nourishment of the mind and thus the soul.

Adab As-suhba (Proper manners of Companionship) by Imaam Abdur-rahman As-sulami a great scholar in spirituality teaches us:
“the proper manners of the limbs outwardly and inwardly, know that each limb has proper manners specific to it”

and goes on to say:

“Adab al ayn – manners of the eyes, to look at your brethren with the eye of affection and love such that they know how you feel about them and this should also be known to others in the gathering”

One does not realise how important it is to show ones feelings to others, especially so in this day and age, where showing ones feeling is thought to be a sign of weakness. One may feel humility or embarrassment to express ones feelings, however there is certainly a thin line here, that verges on the the border of arrogance. Shayk faraz Rabbanni says it is infact Sunnah to be expressive with our emotions with respect to others, and this applies to the relationship with Allah as well as his creation. When one makes dua, one is advised by the prophet (saw) to cry, and if you cannot cry then to make yourself cry. Why would this be so? Perhaps the point is that even if you do not have the feeling or emotion to cry, make yourself cry – do the action and the feeling will come eventually. This infact has been studied in psychology, and studies have shown that when one smiles (even a fake smile), one automatically feels happier and thus would also be so for the opposite effect. It has also been studied that when one is happy, the people around them also become happy. Your expression could infact be a key to leading a beautiful life and happy relationship with others because, the ones who have a sparkling relationship with others are the ones that put the effort in to create that spark.

The Prophet (saw) when turning/talking to others, he turned to them completely with full attention and gaze. Every person he addressed was looked at with the proper adab al ayn – with love and compassion, respect and mercy and that is why every single sahaba (companion) thought that the Prophet (saw) loved them most. Nowadays when one talks to family/friends, the conversation may be there but the attention isnt, one tends to be distracted perhaps looking at something “more interesting” on the laptop, like how Kobe Bryant scored that last goal, or maybe starring in the mirror wondering whether ones butt looks big in ones new dress. This distraction when interacting with others is infact abuse to onself – one is not fulfilling the rights of others nor the rights of your own body. We are in essence enemies of ourselves, Allah has built us with tools of mercy yet we have no idea how to use them.

Furthermore, the Prophet (saw) treated people and looked at them in such a gentle way, their only reaction is to give the same gentle treatment. Because again it has also been psychologically studied, that when one is aggressive to others, they will tend to be aggressive back and when one is soft and gently to others they are also treated in the same manner. Review how you treat others, you may think you are calm and soft natured, but really look deeply at how you treat people, how do you look at them? How is your tone of voice? How is your body language? Is it loving, soft, caring and respectful with gentleness and compassion? Because this is the way to catch peoples hearts, like our Blessed Prophet (saw) when he made da'wah to non-muslims, when teaching his companions and when being with his wives. Not only was he like this with people inside his household but also with people outside the household. Most people have perfect manners with outside people i.e. their friends or stangers but when coming home the adab tends to drop because one does not feel its needed as much to the ones close to them. Infact, because of this reason, one needs to be even more aware of the adab at home and fullfill them more here, more than anywhere else. If not then what makes these people different to the tyrants in the middle east who are perfectly mannered, doing all they can to keep good ties with western countries however, are withdrawing the rights of their own people and shooting them down within their own countries – its double standards, is it not?

And finally, it is the right of the limbs, whether it be the eyes or ears, or any other part of the body, to be used in the proper way (uphold adab) the way allah wanted us to, and the way of using them in the right way with the utmost reward is related to fulfilling the rights of others. A great imaam of the Salaf once said that not fulfilling the rights of ones brethren is a form of abasement - to upkeep your honour/dignity/ loyalty is to rush to fullfill the needs of others. This in turn will give us fulfilment of inner and outer happiness and thus nourishment of the mind and body, making us closer to Allah, which should be the desire of every soul.

Smiling face – with love,
(just incase you didnt get the picture!)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Victim or Master?

When you make dua what do you ask for? One may ask Allah to give one patience (Sabr) in this world, in order for one to overcome the trials and tribulations that one may face. Say if our dua for Sabr was accepted, so what would you expect? Perhaps, a delivery from the postman with a package holding a jar full of sabr? (that would be so cool!). Maybe not. The fact is that, this world is a test, one may find themselves in tribulations, which in itself is the acceptance of your dua, because, Allah is giving you the opportunity to have patience, to grow patience, and to develop in the way each individual needs to develop in their own way in order to become a better muslim and closer to Allah. If patience was handed to us on a plate, could we honestly say we are patient people? Don’t you need to develop it, grow it, experience it, live it, in order to fully master being the patient one?

You will find that no individual has the same problem, the trials you are put in are different to your friends, neighbours, colleagues, and in turn their tribulations are quite different to yours. This is because every trial is adjusted to suit the need of that individual, so that they are given the chance to develop in the area in which they lack most, or maybe to tweak them up to perfection, one persons problem may be bigger than another, perhaps they have more to work on? And the other person just needs a tweaking? Every individual has different things to work on, whatever that may be, patience, anger, having a positive attitude, keeping good relationships etc, and thus, with every circumstance one is put in, one cannot control their circumstances, but one can control their response.

Sometimes they say: Often, if there is no pain, you don’t realise certain things about yourself, and thus there is a hikmah in the pain that people face, its all part of a beautiful plan, first to make you realise your faults, and then to give you a chance to put it right. It’s easy to fall into the victim attitude and say “Why me? Why am I having to go through this crap!?” Perhaps it’s a good speculation, having being asked in the right attitude and right frame of mind, Yes why IS this happening to you, what do YOU need to change to make it right? And of course Allah knows what we need most, and in what ways we need to change, so don’t be a victim, embrace the opportunity to master becoming that better, most patient, most caring, most grateful and most happiest person.

Hadith from Bukhari and Muslim:

Strange indeed are the affairs of a believer, for anything that happens to them is good – and that isn’t true for anyone but a believer. If good happens to them, they are thankful and that is good for them, if difficulty befalls them they are patient and that is good for them.